- U.S. lawmakers: No sanctions relief for Iran pressure without uranium and plutonium suspension
- Suicide bombings rock Iranian embassy in Beirut, deepening fears Hezbollah-driven Syria blowback may engulf Lebanon
- Analysts double down on minimum requirements for robust interim deal with Iran
- Yemen violence underscores insurgency concerns
What we’re watching today:
- United States lawmakers today doubled down on support for imposing new sanctions on Iran, of the type that the Obama administration has very publicly insisted are behind the decision by Iran to negotiate over what is widely believed to be its clandestine nuclear weaponization program. The Hill reported late today that House and Senate lawmakers dispatched bipartisan letters to the President "object[ing] to a proposal that would loosen sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing the most advanced aspects of its program," which analysts have pointed out would nonetheless allow Iran to move closer to producing both uranium- and plutonium-based nuclear bombs than it is today. The Senate letter in particular emphasized that, in exchange for sanctions relief, Iran must be forced to "suspend all uranium reprocessing, heavy water-related and enrichment-related activities and halt ongoing construction of any uranium-enrichment, reprocessing, or heavy water-related facilities."
- Coordinated suicide bombings on the Iranian embassy in Beirut today are pouring fuel on concerns that the Islamic republic and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are dragging Lebanon into the two-and-a-half-year Syrian conflict, while Tehran's response to the attack is generating fears that the incident may be used as a pretext to inflame tensions with Israel. The bombings came a day after a top Lebanese political figure warned that [French] Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian military's systematic march toward the city of Aleppo risked "catastrophic catastrophic repercussions in Lebanon," and after several previous incidents of blowback from the terror group's involvement in Syria. The Al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the bombing, prompting CNN to tersely note in its headline that the "blasts [were] linked to Syrian civil war." Iran for its part both blamed Israel and threatened to retaliate for the attack beyond Lebanon's borders.
- On the eve of talks between Iran and the P5+1 global powers, analysts are underlining what minimum requirements an interim deal with Iran must meet if it is to successfully move Tehran further from being able to construct a nuclear weapon, rather than - as some critics have charged a previous proposed deal permitted - allowing Iran to spend a six-month negotiation period advancing toward nuclear weapons acquisition. Orde Kittrie - a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a tenured professor of law at Arizona State University's Law School - today outlined how any interim deal with Iran must "include stronger provisions relating to enrichment, Iran’s heavy water reactor at Arak, and Iran’s research into nuclear weapons design" if it is to meet President Obama's objective of at the very least ensuring that the Iranians do not advance their nuclear program while negotiations progress from the interim deal to a final agreement. Regarding Iran's uranium track, Kittrie emphasized that among several other things Iran must be prevented "from manufacturing additional centrifuges," a criterium also set out by the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security. Regarding Iran's plutonium track, Kittrie bluntly stated that Iran must "verifiably halt all construction, as [it] is already required to do by several UN Security Council resolutions," in order to guarantee that it is not making progress toward a nuclear weapon.
- An air strike in Yemen today killed three suspected Al Qaeda-linked militants, according to tribal leaders in the area. Instability has been risked becoming endemic in the country since the fall of Yemen's dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh nearly two years ago. A transition sponsored and supported by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been halting. The country's political situation is complicated by at last two insurgencies. In the south there has been an ongoing terror campaign by Al Qaeda targeting government and military institutions. In the north the Iran-backed Houthi separatist movement, which also opposes Yemen's central government, has been fighting. Iran's interference in Yemen's affairs has brought rebukes from Yemen's highest echelons. Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qibri, both during a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September and more recently in an interview, blasted foreign interference. Earlier this month USA Today conveyed reports that Iran's Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah was also involved in destabilizing the country.
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